The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers don’t start the Eastern Conference finals till Wednesday, but that hasn’t stopped the teams from engaging one another early.
Heat star LeBron James took exception Sunday to Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel referring about Miami as “just the next team” standing between Pacers and a shot at an NBA title.
Vogel made the statement during his postgame press conference after the Indiana Pacers closed out the NY Knicks in Game 6 of the conference semifinals, setting up a rematch with the Heat. Miami defeated Indiana in the meeting semis last season on its way to the NBA title.
“We’re not just another team,” James related. “I don’t understand what he’s saying. But we aren’t just another team. That’s not true. He said we are just another team in their way. We are a great team. If we’re just another team, you really don’t prepare for just another team. You’ve got to get ready for us.”
This marks the 2nd straight postseason the Heat and Pacers have engaged in a war of words before facing one another. Vogel was fined $15,000 last spring for saying the Miami Heat were “the biggest flopping team in the NBA.” Indiana took a 2-1 series lead before the Heat won the next 3 games while playing without injured center Chris Bosh.
James said his ears perked up when he heard Vogel’s postgame remarks after the Knicks series.
The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers play Game 1 on Wednesday; a series that starts 6 days after Miami ousted the Chicago Bulls in 5 games.
“We’re very confident,” James said. “We’ll be ready for them. We don’t need bulletin-board material. We’ve heard everything, we’ve seen everything. But I say we aren’t just another team, though.” Football scores
The Pacers won 2 of their 3 regular-season games against the Heat, with both of their wins by double figures coming in Indiana after dominating in the paint.
After losing in Indiana on Feb. 1, Miami then went on the 2nd-longest winning streak in NBA history with 27 consecutive victories, including a 105-91 win against Indiana.
Last year’s playoff showdown included plenty of taunting, flagrant fouls and extremely physical play.
At one point during the series, then-Pacers team president Larry Bird referred to his team as soft for the way that it stumbled after taking an early lead and stealing homecourt advantage.
James said he expects lots of the same intensity when the teams meet this time with a trip to the NBA Finals at stake. This is the Heat’s 3rd straight trip to the conference finals; Indiana is there for the first time since 2004.
“We’re ready for whatever,” James related. “I believe it will be like last series. They’re going to try and put me on the floor, maybe. Be physical with me, perhaps. I’m not sure. Every team kind of does the same thing. They kind of read what everyone else talks about [and say], ‘You have to beat up the Miami Heat to beat them.’ We will see what happens.”